Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Now on Amazon Prime: The Neon Demon (2016)

Neon Demon movie poster
The Neon Demon (2016) - Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; Written by Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham; Starring Elle Fanning, Abbey Lee, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves.

By Kenny Howell

Horror films are all about the aesthetics, so it's only natural that someone as visceral as Nicolas Winding Refn would make one. A really weird one.

After breaking onto the scene with Drive a few years back, Winding Refn followed it with the stylish but very oddly paced Only God Forgives which had plenty of scenes framed with people standing still then all the sudden yelling at each other. Lost in that was a great performance by Kristen Scott Thomas.

The Neon Demon luckily leans more toward Drive in quality, but still has the odd pacing that plagued Only God Forgives. Luckily, it isn't as much of a distraction.

Elle Fanning plays a 16-year-old model named Jesse that draws plenty of attention when she enters the industry. Some of those admirers are the other models, but that quickly turns to horrible jealousy when she starts taking some of their jobs.

Over the film, that devolves into a nightmare as the opposing models get more insane, and they, including nutjobs played by Jena Malone (The Go-Getter) and Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), want to consume her beauty, which leads to a horrific ending.

There is a lot going on here, as Winding Refn sometimes does, and all the window dressing can get quite abrasive at times. It works for it and against it because Winding Refn wants you to feel uncomfortable, which he succeeds. Problem is that you feel uncomfortable, so The Neon Demon isn't very pleasurable to watch at times. Still, the cinematography alone is worth price of admission, and Winding Refn once again shows his ability to set up still worthy shots. If he could only get out of his own way occasionally, it would be a much better watch.

Rating: ***

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